The best news we have heard since the announcement of the rebuilding of TRILLIUM centres around renewed plans to refurbish and return to service the old Muskoka Lakes steamer SEGWUN. This iron-hulled passenger boat, built back in 1887 as the sidewheeler NIPISSING and later converted to a propellor, was retired by Gravenhurst Steamships Ltd. just before the close of the 1958 season. (SEGWUN had a hard time that year and the larger SAGAMO closed out the season alone.) She then lay at Gravenhurst, serving as a marine museum, until 1973 when the Ontario Roadbuilders' Association started in motion the drive to have the 123-foot SEGWUN placed back in service. The sum of $400,000 raised by the Association and by the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society got the job started and much headway was made before the funds ran out about two years ago. Since then, no substantial progress has been made, but now the Ontario government has announced a matching grant of $400,000 to complete the job and place SEGWUN back in full excursion service on the Muskoka Lakes. The government estimates that she might carry as many as 60,000 passengers per season, although it has not been announced what route she might serve. The thought of seeing this real veteran backwater steamboat back in service as Ye Ed knew her twenty years ago is enough to get us very excited and we shall anxiously await the day when once again we can hear her high and melodious chimed whistle echoing amongst the hills along the Indian River.
Although there has as yet been no official announcement of which we are aware, we understand that the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company, has been the successful bidder for the National Steel Corporation's bulk carrier ERNEST T. WEIR which has been on the market for several months. As a result, the future of Bethlehem Steel's SPARROWS POINT would seem to be very much in doubt, as it had been suggested that she would be going to Columbia if the WEIR did not.
The proposed sale of the vessels of the Hindman Transportation Company Ltd. to the Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company Ltd. has been approved by both companies and is currently awaiting the green light from government officials in Ottawa who must also approve the deal. We understand that no changes in name for the Hindman boats are presently being considered but that in 1978 GEORGE HINDMAN, BLANCHE HINDMAN, MARTHA HINDMAN, PARKER EVANS and HELEN EVANS (if she operates) will appear in Q & O colours.
The Q & O steamer OUTARDE has spent the winter of 1977-78 at Toronto near the Parliament Street slip where she has been worked upon by a crew from Herb Fraser and Associates Ltd. Much of the work has been of an internal nature but in addition, a rather large doghouse has been erected on the boat deck immediately forward of the stack. The location of this house does not improve the boat's appearance as it tends to hide her stack which is not very tall. OUTARDE is, of course, the former ROBERT HOBSON of the Interlake Steamship Company which Q & O rescued from the scrapyard at Ramey's Bend in the autumn of 1975.
It has now been confirmed that the next self-unloader to come from the Bay Shipbuilding yard at Sturgeon Bay for the American Steamship Company will be christened BUFFALO and that to make way for this name in the fleet, the present BUFFALO will be renamed SAGINAW BAY. This development had been reported in these pages last month but at that time we had no confirmation. We have also learned that yet another small self-unloader will be built by Bay Shipbuilding for BoCo. She will be similar to SAM LAUD and BUFFALO but will, we understand, be a bit larger than either of her earlier fleetmates.
Work is progressing at Toledo on the removal of the superstructure of the former Columbia craneship W. C. RICHARDSON which was used during 1977 to unload bulk cargoes from salt water vessels. It seems that the cabins of the RICHARDSON were interfering with the operation of her cranes and this is the reason for their removal. The RICHARDSON will be used by Consolidated Dock Inc., a subsidiary of the Wills Trucking Company, until such time as the company receives permission to build a dock facing along its Toledo property.
The future of "The Mystery Ship", the two-masted schooner ALVIN CLARK, is much in doubt at the moment. The wooden hull, which was raised from the waters of Green Bay, Wisconsin, following her discovery by fishermen in 1967. is currently at Menominee where she has been on display. The boat bore no marks of identification but is generally conceded to be the CLARK which was built at Trenton, Michigan, in 1846 and which sank in heavy weather in 1864. She was raised and restored by Frank Hoffman of Menominee but he is now seeking to dispose of her because of the condition of his own health and the rather large amount of money which would be required to prevent the disintegration of the boat which has, of course, been considerably accelerated by her exposure to the air after 103 years on the bottom. She was offered to the City of Menominee for $250,000 for inclusion in a park project but the city refused the offer and neither state nor federal authorities seem interested in preserving the CLARK which is the most valuable single marine artifact of her period still in existence on the Great Lakes. It would be nothing short of scandalous for the appropriate governmental authorities not to step in to preserve this historic vessel and we join our voice to the many others crying out for the protection of ALVIN CLARK from the ravages of time and the elements.
The necessary approval was given late in January for increased operation by the Straits of Mackinac steam carferry CHIEF WAWATAM and ever since, the CHIEF has been making from seven to ten trips a week instead of her usual one in an effort to clear the monumental jam of traffic which has resulted from the flourishing operations of the Michigan Northern Railroad. Some opposition to the continued operation of the CHIEF has been generated by the increase of $324,000 in state subsidies which must be dished out to the Straits Car Ferry Service Corp. to foot the bill for CHIEF WAWATAM's extra service. Ye Ed is not a Michigan taxpayer, but if he were, you can bet that he would not grouse about a few of his tax dollars going to keep the CHIEF steaming! Meanwhile, the Michigan Northern has indicated that it wants to take over the operation of the CHIEF, which it considers to be essential for its continued success. This alternative would certainly reduce costs and hence also the state subsidies required.
The on-again-off-again purchase of SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN, (a) VACATIONLAND, (b) JACK DALTON, (c) PERE NOUVEL, by the State of Michigan for service on a proposed ferry route between DeTour Village, Michigan, and Meldrum Bay, Ontario, appears to be close to becoming reality. Recent press releases indicate that everything is set to go as soon as approval comes from the Michigan legislature, but that service could not start before 1979 due to the need to construct proper docking facilities at DeTour and Meldrum Bay. The former has no suitable wharf, while the wooden dock which served NORMAC at the latter "port" has long since fallen victim to decay. We presume that state authorities will not be waiting for the results of the study into the feasibility of installing tracks on the main deck of SUNSHINE COAST QUEEN so that she could replace CHIEF WAWATAM on the Straits carferry run as well as holding down the new passenger ferry service. We have three hopes for this new service:
The Paterson motorship SOODOC (II) passed down the Welland Canal on December 11, 1977 en route out of the lakes for the winter. It was known at the time that she was bound for the west coast but it is only recently that we have learned the significance of her peregrinations. SOODOC carried with her on her late-season trip a cargo of some 7,000 tons of steel which she loaded at the Sault Ste. Marie plant of Algoma Steel. She cleared the Soo on December 8 and arrived at Vancouver via the Panama Canal on January 15. The purpose of the unusual trip was to assess the cost of shipping steel to western customers by water as opposed to the overland rail route and Algoma claims that, in this respect, the trip was a success. On the other hand, N. M. Paterson and Sons Ltd. has pronounced the trip a financial disaster due to problems encountered in arranging return cargoes at profitable rates and the loss to the company of early season revenue from the operation of SOODOC, the ship not being expected back in the lakes until May. The boat herself underwent a thorough refit at Vancouver during the winter and a photo which appeared in the Toronto Star on January 30 showed crewmen hard at work painting her hull.
The vessels of the fleet of the Algoma Central Railway are presently undergoing a minor change in colours. The familiar "bear" crest on their bows and stacks has been altered by the deletion of the word "Railway" and the substitution of the word "Marine". We are pleased to note that the intricate crest itself, which must be a nasty piece of business to paint, will remain. It is a happy reminder of the handsome Algoma steamers which first carried it many years ago.
The Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. steam bulk carrier GORDON C. LEITCH has been playing the part of a grain ferry this winter while laid up at Toronto. The LEITCH went into winter quarters with a storage grain cargo for Toronto Elevators (or, more correctly, Maple Leaf Mills) and once her own cargo was unloaded, she was taken back to the Cousins Terminal on Cherry Street where she received a load of grain from the self-unloader CANADIAN OLYMPIC. This cargo was then unloaded from the LEITCH back at the elevator and since then she made several more such trips across the harbour. The reason for this unusual movement is that CANADIAN OLYMPIC is too large to be unloaded in the Toronto Elevators slip.
Last July 23rd, a small group of observers watched in awe and silence from a small boat out on Lake Nicolet as the Kinsman steamer PAUL L. TIETJEN passed down the St. Mary's River en route to Buffalo on what was then considered to be her final trip. The TIETJEN was then half a year overdue for survey and inspection and almost a month past the end of the temporary extension which had been granted to her. But the forced retirement of GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER (which had been briefly reactivated in the spring of 1977) together with the loss by fire of HARRY L. ALLEN has created a gap in the Kinsman fleet that is not entirely filled by the addition of KINSMAN INDEPENDENT (II). With this in mind, it seems entirely possible that the coal-burning TIETJEN may be placed on the dock and given a further lease on life, no matter how unlikely that eventuality might in the past have been considered to be. Don't count the old girl out yet!
Sherwood Marine has let it be known that it intends to operate four round trips per day between Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and Lewiston, New York, using the former Toronto Island ferry SHIAWASSIE which was acquired by the company during 1977. While the ride up the Niagara River has always been considered to be a most pleasant excursion, we know of no boat in which we would less want to make the trip. SHIAWASSIE was a dismal failure on Toronto Bay due to the many inadequacies of her design and we can see no way in which she could be considered suitable for her new service either. Sherwood is also the owner of CAYUGA II which was originally built for the service between Toronto and Niagara but which has recently been used only for the excursion trade around Toronto Bay and environs. Be this as it may, we hear rumours to the effect that Sherwood may again try CAYUGA II on the route between Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake this year in addition to her usual excursion and charter service. Bearing in mind the design of this boat, we do not envy anyone making such a trip, especially during the latter part of the summer when Lake Ontario can kick up a respectable sea in a southeaster.
In last month's issue, we mentioned that the Interlake Steamship Company's bulk carrier CHARLES M. BEEGHLY was a victim of the severe windstorm which swept the Great Lakes area on January 26th. We had, however, little detail at the time of our original report. We now learn that the BEEGHLY was downbound at the Johnson Point turn of the Middle Neebish Channel in the St. Mary's River when she scraped the bottom, apparently rupturing her first three portside ballast tanks. Despite the wind and the ice, she was able to free herself and, taking water, proceeded down into Lake Munuscong (Mud Lake) where she came to rest near the junction buoy, her bow on the bottom. She was out of the shipping channel and was not impeding the passage of other lakers. BEEGHLY was finally refloated with the aid of divers and pumps and on January 28 she was moved to DeTour where part of her cargo of taconite was removed. She subsequently went to South Chicago to unload and then to Fraser Shipyards at Superior for repairs.
Another victim of the January 26 storm was the Great Lakes Maritime Academy training vessel ALLEGHENY which capsized at her dock at Traverse City, Michigan, the day following the storm. Her sinking was the result of the high winds and the heavy coating of ice which formed on her superstructure.
In the March issue, we reported that the C.S.L. steam bulk carrier BLACK BAY had suffered a fire in her after accommodation while laid up at Montreal on February 19. While it was subsequently believed that the damage was extremely severe, we are now told that the situation was not quite so serious. Repairs have been put in hand and BLACK BAY is expected to be serviceable during April.
The first vessel movement of the new navigation season on Lake Ontario occurred on March 11th when the C.S.L. bulk carrier RIMOUSKI moved under her own power from Hamilton to Port Weller for drydocking. It will be recalled that RIMOUSKI was one of the boats caught in Lake Ontario off the entrance to Hamilton harbour when local bridge operators went on strike at the end of the 1977 navigation season. The bridgemen permitted RIMOUSKI to enter the port because she was taking water from damage sustained in an earlier accident. It is to repair this damage that she has been removed to Port Weller at such an early date.
The first vessel to raise steam in Toronto harbour this spring was the veteran JUDITH M. PIERSON which began to fit out during the week before Easter and which left port shortly after the holiday weekend. The reason for her early start was that she was due to go on the drydock at Port Weller for her regular inspection and survey.
Meanwhile, the first arrival of the season at Toronto was the C.S.L. self-unloader STADACONA which arrived from Port Weller on March 23 and took a load of taconite from SAGUENAY. The latter boat was laid up in the turning basin and was in need of lightering so that certain work could be performed on her starboard side plating.
We understand that Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. is giving consideration to having its ST. LAWRENCE PROSPECTOR, (a) CARLTON, converted to a full laker. The work, which may be done at an overseas shipyard, would involve the retention only of the after end and the machinery and the construction of an entirely new forebody. It seems that Upper Lakes has no present intention of similarly rebuilding ST. LAWRENCE NAVIGATOR.
If the distinction of operating the lakes' "museum fleet" once rested with Upper Lakes Shipping, the honours have, in recent years, passed "back across the border to roost with the Huron Cement Division of the National Gypsum Company. This fleet operates six boats, of which the two oldest were built in 1898 and 1904. We understand that J. B. FORD has passed her five-year inspection and this should ensure the continued operation of the 74-year-old steamer which began life as EDWIN P. HOLMES of the Hawgood fleet and later sailed as E. C. COLLINS for U.S. Steel and Kinsman Transit. More good news is that the steamer LEWIS G. HARRIMAN, built in 1923 as JOHN W. BOARD-MAN and used only for cement storage during the last few years, has been converted to burn oil fuel at Superior this winter. This should guarantee a return to active service of this handsome little (340.6 feet) laker.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.